James Governor's Monkchips

IBM Executives for a Smart Planet

Share via Twitter Share via Facebook Share via Linkedin Share via Reddit

I was going to write something about IBM’s Smart Planet positioning after a breakfast on the subject at the company’s Software Group summit this week, but it strikes me there is a more important point to make. Smart Planet is going to need Smart People, and IBM has plenty of those.

With respect to IBM I have to say it was GREAT to be there this week. Everywhere I looked there were very senior executives that deeply believe in the importance of global sustainability. This isn’t CSR, or even “shareholder value”. These are smart people, some with children, that care and want to make a real difference.

One dude is totally awesome – John Soyring – he was an environmentalist back in the first wave in the early 70s. In fact he decided not to retire from IBM because Green is too important, and he sees the opportunity/feels the responsibility to drive substantive change in that area. He is working on IBM go to markets in the Energy and Utilities market that will deliver efficiency, Demand Response and peak shaving.

I also spent some time talking to Doug Heintzman of Lotus, a really good guy that I have profiled before. He showed off some extremely cool new editor technology thinking (anyone for office suites with audio editing capabilities?) in his “day job”, but after the reception on Wednesday evening we sat down and talked about how, or should I say if, we’re going to make the disruptive leap from a carbon economy to something else. Is this really as good as it gets? Is it all downhill from here? Do we face managed decline or catastrophic change? Or can America pull off a renewal that will make the Apollo Project look like a cakewalk rather than a spacewalk? Doug is Canadian, but as he said, who else has the resources, especially in pure science and research, to really deliver us from carbon? America.

I have been hanging out with some web types thinking about driving hacker led sustainability. But we can’t succeed without a top down push from the Big Cos. As I said on an email to the group today:

“Quick update – it seems the top down folks are actually quite serious about smart grids. I know Google is working with GE. But I have also been impressed with what’s going on at IBM, SAP and Oracle around Advanced Meter Infrastructures. This is quite real, and the utilities don’t seem to be fighting it.”

If you’re interested in the future of Energy Networks and the Read/Write Grid Neutral electricity check out Greenmonk.net. Tom Raftery is doing a great job filling out the white space.

Job one in creating a Smart Planet is sustainability. We all need to work our asses off. It makes me feel a whole lot better knowing IBM is on the case, and I want to thank Sandy Carter and John Kennedy for “giving it a name”, something IBMers can rally around. The passion is there. This isn’t CSR. This isn’t just making a buck. Its way more important than that.


  1. So, just checking: do these smart, senior, green IBM executives travel to their meetings in private jets, like their Detroit peers?

  2. Glad to see your enthusiasm for IBM’s (et al) push towards an embedded world. I think this moves us closer along to a day in which systems can be efficiently utilitized.

    I’ve never been a fan of ‘consuming’ green – or ‘fear based’ incentives to change.. but getting ‘smarter’ is a great platform for innovation. The recipe is simple- software, sensors and storage!

    Big fan of your blog!

    Garry G

  3. James,

    Totally agree, this is extremely important stuff and it was great to see how serious IBM is about sustainability.

    One of the things that we have to realize is that we’ve painted ourselves into a corner at the urban architecture level. We have spent 20 years building cities on a low-cost-energy paradigm. Los Angeles will not become a walkable city overnight – it will take 20 years to fix!

    This is why re-architecting our workplace is important. We need to create sustainable societies around sustainable work practices. Re-architecting networks, software and jobs must be done now because re-architecting cities will take too long. Teleworking and collaboration are the solution to car-based cities that will otherwise decline rapidly due to energy costs.

  4. Hey Jack – great question. I think you’ll find IBM execs make extensive use of our normal airlines. It may be that CEO Sam Palmisano flies private, but its certainly not standard in the broader executive ranks. I might look into the question – but i do know IBM is making efforts to cut travel in general at the moment, a cost-saving as much as green effort in the current climate.

    Which takes me to Andreas- wow that’s a great deep comment. Shades of Fred Wilson, where the comments are what makes the blog- you can come again man. Future of cities- you need to hook up with Mark Charmer at Movement Design Bureau!

    Hey Gary – our sustainability line of business also tries to maintain a focus on smart rather than fear. Fear can be useful but it can also paralyse us.

  5. Yes they do, and if you were traveling 300k+ miles/year to speak to clients, universities, governments, and environmental organizations on the importance of making the planet smarter, no matter how self-serving, I would grant you the luxury of traveling by private jet.

  6. Re IBM Execs’ travel, you’d be amazed at who is flying coach these days; even senior execs flying from the US to Asia.

  7. […] I have said before IBM is quite serious about the Smarter Planet. When Barack Obama talks about creating 4m new jobs in 2 years he has IBM data to back him up. […]

  8. […] are some folks working on making utilities smarter.  James Governor mentions John Soyring in his recent post, and here’s a short intro to Ron Ambrosio.  and a four minute […]

  9. I like the mention of Google working with GE on smart grid advancements. With the amount of electrical energy used by Google’s server infrastructure, it is best to have efficiency with minimal waste.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *